Are you in e-commerce? Good. You might get rich this Christmas season. I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.

Good News about Your Holiday Earnings

The statistics are in your favor. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an estimated 140 million consumers will be hitting the Internet to buy stuff.

According to an Accenture survey reported by InternetRetailer, a whopping one half of all holiday shoppers will do at least some of their Christmas list shopping online.

NRF is forecasting that these online shoppers will drop $82 billion! IBM crunched some numbers and came up with some intriguing Cyber Monday statistics. The squiggly line for 2013 (not shown below) is going to be 15-30% higher if the prophecies come to pass.

cybermonday

Image Source: IBM

The Bad News about Your Holiday Earnings

But then again, you might not get rich. The critical difference between getting rich or not lies in holiday trust factors on your e-commerce site. If your site lacks holiday credibility, you will successfully PREVENT a considerable percentage of shoppers from making a purchase on your site. It’s that simple.

Few holiday trust factors on your e-commerce site =  few conversions from holiday shoppers

The presence of more trust factors is positively correlated with more conversions:

trustfactors

Think of this article as your Christmas present. You can have a happier holiday season with fatter revenues and killer conversion rates. I’m not promising you riches. But I am saying that if you follow my action-points, your winning odds will be a whole lot better.

This article will deal with the most important trust factors for your website as a whole as it pertains to the holidays specifically. Not discussed in the article is the generic yet important advice, such as to ensure a smooth checkout process, offer guarantees, check site speed, bla-bla-bla.

My goal is to provide the three most specific and salient points that will directly influence conversions on your website this holiday season.

 

Three Critical Trust Factors That Will Improve Conversions

1.  Update your content with holiday-relevant news and information.

This nugget of wisdom gets to the heart of content marketing. The definition of content marketing is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Wordy, yeah, but basically that means that you’re publishing information in addition to products on your e-commerce website. Barry Felder, in a successfully deconstructive piece at Social Media Today, remarks that, “if you’re not doing content marketing, you’re not marketing.”

Blogs have an important role in the trust process. In a MarketCharts.com study, “over half of blog-influenced consumers trust blogs to help make purchase decisions.” The method of influence is revealing.

 decisions

It behooves you as a maven of the e-commerce industry to garner trust by publishing content that is about the holidays and that will speak directly to the needs and interests of your target audience. Here are four critical remarks.

  • Do not push sales in your blog. The big idea behind an e-commerce blog is to 1) establish credibility, and  2) improve SEO. Thus, in the cultivation of trust, it is counterproductive to use your blog as yet another overt advertising platform. A recent Nielsen survey indicates that consumers’ trust in advertising is varying and not altogether reassuring. Instead of an advertising platform, your content should provide information-rich content that answers questions and provides advice.

 

The North Face blog offers a brilliant example of the don’t-sell advice. The content itself sells, with no need for talking about the latest fleece or sleeping bag liner. Instead, the content itself is the marketing, because it deals with their target customer’s passions and interests.

 

northface

  • Make it about the holidays. Advertising-heavy content is a no-no. But relevant holiday content? That’s perfect. If you don’t use the word “Christmas,” “holiday,” or “Santa” somewhere in your post, you’re missing it. When a potential customer hops online to do shopping, they are humming “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Don’t flatten their Christmas spirit with a Scrooge-like reception. Make your content connect with the holidays.

 

Martha Stewart is a prime example of content marketing par excellence. Chances are, you’ll find something to enhance your Christmas celebration, plus get a little not-so-obvious conversion nudge.

 marthstewart

 

  • Okay, so you don’t have a blog? Get one. Be sure to build your blog on the same root domain as your existing e-commerce site. Hint: blog.yourecommercesite.com is not advisable. Rather,  yourecommercesite.com/blog is recommended. A simple WordPress blog using your existing site design template will do the trick nicely.
  • You have a blog, but your most recent post is from March 2012? Update it with plenty of content, and backdate the posts so it looks like you’re on top of things.

 

Content reigns supreme as a crucial trust-building factor. This holiday season, don’t neglect it.

2.  Enhance your branding with seasonal design.

 target

E-commerce shoppers are psychologically tuned into the holiday season. With shopping list in hand and carols playing in the background, they’ve got Santa on the mind. Thus, when they find resonating design features on an e-commerce website, they become more likely to respond favorably. Here’s why:

  • Seasonal design shows that you are present. People can spot an unmanaged website, and it completely denigrates trustworthiness. The easiest way to overcome this, short of doing a template overhaul or something equally unadvisable the day after Thanksgiving, is to add something that says “holiday” in a design relevant way.

 

The website of ZylietheBear.com, a teddy bear commerce site, creates seasonal design by updating the Zylie figure with a pilgrim hat, relevant for Thanksgiving. Site managers will probably add a Zylie with Santa hat in a few weeks. This image is from a homepage popup, and the image appears in the site header as well.

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  • Seasonal design features show that you are into the holidays. Websites possess a modicum of that indefinable trait of human interactions wherein you connect with some and don’t connect with others. Human-technology interaction is completely controllable, and depends on how your website coheres with the proclivities of the shopper. Obviously, you know your target audience. Thus, you can introduce design elements that show that your site speaks to their passions, interests, and concerns. For example, let’s say you are selling Despicable Me action figures, which is supposed to be a hot gift this year. Your target audience is parents of 4-9 year olds. Thus, your design element may include a banner image of a Minion Carl under the Christmas tree, with some slogan about helping kids have a meaningful and memorable Christmas.

 

minion

Image source: http://www.etsy.com/listing/164781633/despicable-me-minion-carl-christmas?ref=rss

See? You’ve made a connection, plus you’ve shown that you’re into not only the holidays, but you’re also interested in your customers’ passions and interests.

tiffanys

Seasonal design factors.

As you tweak your holiday-primed website, think obvious and simple. In addition, tastefulness is key. Hopefully, you are or have in your employ a qualified designer. Here’s are some design factors you may wish to address from a design standpoint:

  • Holiday-themed branding. 69% of consumers “completely or somewhat trust” a branded website, which is the second highest trust rating right after “recommendations from people I know.” You may wish to add subtle holiday elements to dress up your branded site logo. Christmas lights, snow, elves — these can add a seasonal flair that provides a relevant and trustworthy message.

 

Zazzle adds a snowflake to a menu item in their top header, adding an obvious seasonal shopping tilt.

 christmasshopping

 

  • Images. Your site’s graphics are a leading trust factor, a point which should be fairly obvious. It follows that updating these images to improve their holiday relevance is critical. A Kissmetrics article discusses the fact that trustworthy and conversion-improving images are those that 1) possess story appeal, and 2) demonstrate something said in the page’s text. Hero graphics with these qualities will help to improve your site’s trust feel.

 

Biltmore House accomplishes this with eye-popping wonder using their entire homepage as a dazzling Christmas invitation.

 biltmore

Home Depot’s site has this subtle holiday flair with the spray of green in the right corner, and a fridge wrapped in a red bow.

homedepot

3.  Increase social quality and output for seasonal social signals.

This final factor has to do with the fuzzy field of social signals, and the complex human psychology that goes into socially influenced purchases. Rather than discuss these psychological factors in detail, I’ll share the effective techniques of social priming for the holiday season.

Suffice it to say that the play of social factors in the conversion process is huge. Furthermore, social signals directly influence the level and quality of your traffic. Finally, social signals improve your SEO. But in order for it to have these positive influences, social must be connected to your website in an obvious way.

  • Ensure that your website has active social plugins. These should be featured on the homepage. Something as simple as shown in the image below is ideal.

 

socialicons

  • Connect your website content to your social networks. Be sure that you are tweeting or posting links to your content and/or products.

 

  • Enable social sharing on products. If customers like, want, or buy a product on your site, make it easy for them to share the news with their social network. For example, add a “share” button to product pictures and descriptions. Amazon has a persistent header menu with a “share” link, enabling you to instantly broadcast a free advertisement on their behalf. In addition, every product page comes with share options. Plus, once you buy a product, you’re encouraged to tell your Twitter followers and Facebook friends with a social popup. On this page, the share icons are located in a great high-visibility area — right above the right-hand purchase sidebar. As eyes instinctively move toward the right of the screen, they will take in the social plugins and improve the possibility of a share.

 

 kindle

 

Before you can have a successful social campaign, it’s important to have a social presence. If you have Facebook fans and Twitter followers in the single digits, you’ll need to acquire some more clout if you want to succeed here.

Here’s a brief game plan for trust-building social interaction during the holidays.

  • Share helpful information. During their gift acquisition phase, people devour helpful information. Consumers even spend money to buy guidebooks, advising them what gifts to purchase. On your social platforms, share lists, links, or information about great purchases or holiday tips. ToysRus is using a “Fabulous 15” page to promote a series of holiday gift ideas.

 toysrus

 

  • Create a unique holiday hashtag. To streamline your holiday social posting, create a tag that will keep it all in one place. Tag creation has the added benefit of decreasing social bounce rates, and engaging user interaction. Something simple like “#ecommercechristmas2013” will do the job. Here’s how ToysRus did it:

 

 toysrus2

  • Use pictures. Take advantage of the rich graphics interface on the social media sites. Pinterest is a given for image-rich content, but you can and should do the same with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Images evoke a visceral response, further advancing a customer down the conversion pathway.

 

Social is a key factor for consumer trust. You must both be social, and  be social in the right way, in order to capitalize on this vast potential for trustworthiness.

Take action on these three issues, and you’re likely to see a nice uptick in holiday conversions. One of the most valuable assets of your e-commerce business is the level of trust you hold among your customers. Thankfully, you have considerable control over this factor. Dressing up your content with holiday flair, adding seasonal design elements, and improving your social reach will go along way in building more trust, and thereby improving your profits.

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